All Words: Gareth Moore
It was perfectly fitting, and completely surprising, that as I walked into 9:30 Club I was greeted by the sounds of Know Your Product by the Saints. This is one of the truly great songs by one of the truly excellent bands. Playing them was logical because this Australian band inspired numerous future bands and artists, including Nick Cave. Also, like Grinderman, Know Your Product is a gripping (punk?) song that attacks you with intense energy and distinctive arrangements. It was strange hearing them simply because I rarely hear great music before a 9:30 club show. The last time I saw the Bad Seeds there I heard Mekons and 999, and it’s always good hearing them. On this night their managed to be a few more good tunes: Pulp’s Party Hard and Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here. I have no idea who thought of these musical decisions, but I like to think it was the band.
Opening act Shipla Ray initially seemed like a strange choice. She sounds like drunken banshee playing the harmonium. By the second song I began to warm to her singing and her music. It eventually resembled a twisted female response to Grinderman. Imagining that crew spewing their venom all over a woman, this is the woman’s bare and cutting response to him. This view was heightened upon seeing Nick Cave in the wings, peering down through a cracked door, wearing mirrored sunglasses. He took on the appearance of a jilted lover who wanted to run yet couldn’t look away. Still, I couldn’t help but wish we had the young artist who opened for Grinderman on their European tour: Anna Calvi. The woman has only one single, the vitriolic purge Jezebel, and already three of her strongest champions are Brian Eno, Jarvis Cocker, and Nick Cave. What more do you need to know?
I am going to abstain from discussing how shockingly stellar Grinderman’s output is. If you are reading this you probably already know that, and for those who don’t…well, I certainly hope you have a good excuse. Nick Cave and his crew are so often written about and admired, and rightly so, that I can’t help but wonder if there is anything new to say. Thankfully, for a group of artists who have been so prolific, and most of it is ace material, they still manage to come up with new delights for us. This fact makes it easier to once again discuss their unique abilities.
Just as it is his modus operandi with the Bad Seeds, Grinderman refuse to phone-in one second of their show, instead giving an engaging performance from start to finish. By the first song both Nick Cave and Warren Ellis were jumping into the air and kicking an unseen beast. Ellis, as usual, surrendered himself to the music. He grew so consumed that during Evil he started doing sit-ups; every time he reached his knees he would scream into the microphone “EVIL! RISING!” I was especially impressed by drummer Jim Sclavunous. His sounds were so LOUD. I have no idea if it was due to his exquisite skills or a highly-trained sound engineer, but this was exceptionally strong drumming. Luckily none of this insanity ever fazed bassist Martyn P. Casey. A hurricane could have torn the place down and he would still be standing on his spot, still playing. It’s good to have one member of this band create the solid foundation for the anarchy on top.
There weren’t any Bad Seeds songs, but there was no need for them. Grinderman has two strong albums and they know it. The band played all of their new album and most of their first. I consider myself lucky to be able to have seen them play one of the finest albums of the year in full. Opener Mickey Mouse & the Goodbye Man immediately showed off their muscle. Man In The Moon and Grinderman were extended and elaborated. They added new sounds to them and, ultimately, turned them into entirely new pieces that were as impressive as they were cool. Honey Bee (Let’s Fly To Mars), Love Bomb, and No Pussy Blues seemed to be played even faster than the original versions. Nick was kind enough to clarify the mistake most of has had been making with No Pussy Blues: “It’s not about not getting any pussy,” he quipped, “It’s about not having a pussy.”
These guys lived up to their reputation, playing an invigorating set and proving once more that they are not some daffy side-project. They deserve respect. The show was great…but I never had any fun. The reasons why had nothing to do with the band and everything to do with certain members of the crowd, particularly a young couple. Early on they charged up to the front and nearly knocked myself and my friends to the ground. They proceeded to jump into, and onto, everyone around them. Eventually four different guys threatened to beat them to a pulp. Everyone around me frequently shared an irate look, followed by one of heavy disappointment. We couldn’t get lost in the show because of these pricks.
Here is a short lesson in respect. If you go to a rock show you should accept the fact that you may get wet, or dirty, possibly even a few bruises. If you stand at the front the odds of those events are doubled. But this does not give you the license to be a jerk. No one should have to deal with a person repeatedly slamming into them. At the Joy Formidable show last week there was an empty space in the middle of the room and I was jumping around with some people. The difference is I was jumping with them; never once did I allow myself to jump into the non-dancing crowd. The young couple last night showed no respect to anyone in the room, knocking everyone around, using the genius of Nick Cave as an excuse. When the show was over my fellow victims and I expressed our fury over that behavior. I wish more people exercised more awareness at concerts. That couple could have assaulted one unforgiving man, which could have led to a very bad ending for everyone.
In conclusion: try to show respect for your fellow crowd members because we all want to see a great show, but we don’t want to be assaulted.